Dr Michelle Johansson

BA, Grad Dip Tchg, Grad Dip TESSOL (Teaching English in Schools to Speakers of Other Languages, Post Grad Dip Arts in Drama Studies, MA (Hons), MProfStuds in Education (Hons)

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Doctoral Candidate - Doctor of Education

Research | Current

Michelle is a Creative PhD candidate and a Professional Teaching Fellow in Pacific Studies, Education, and English, Drama and Writing Studies. Her research is primarily concerned with Pasifika education and theatre in Aotearoa. She is particularly interested in Polynesian identity, representation and authenticity and the way these are made manifest, particularly in the largest Polynesian city in the world.

Michelle is a confident practitioner of and advocate for culturally responsive pedagogy and has delivered workshops and papers in this field in Aotearoa, Samoa and Hawai‘i. As a Polynesian Arts professional and educator, Michelle's research recognizes that as a lens through which young people view themselves, the world, and their place in the world, drama and drama texts are a powerful means of affirming or undermining positive cultural identity and self-image. 

Teaching | Current

2014  Manukau Institute of Technology – Lecturer, Creative Arts

2014  University of Auckland – Professional Teaching Fellow, Faculty of Education

2012-2014 University of Auckland - Professional Teaching Fellow, English Drama and Writing Studies/Pacific Studies

2010-2014  University of Auckland – Graduate Teaching Assistant, English Drama and Writing Studies

2009-2013  University of Auckland – Graduate Teaching Assistant (Tuakana), Faculty of Arts, Equity

2004-2011  Wesley College – Head of Department of English and Drama



University of Auckland Doctoral Scholar

New Zealand Federation of Graduate Women Fellowship

Maori and Pasifika Leadership Grant recipient


In the secondary school education sector Michelle has worked in middle and senior management. She has also worked for the Ministry of Education as an NCEA marker; as Pasifika Advisor for the development of Teaching and Learning Curriculum Guides and in research and report writing on Pasifika Professional Learning and Development.

Michelle is the managing director and playwright of the critically acclaimed Black Friars theatre company who work to challenge dominant stereotypes surrounding Pasifika people.  In this role she has written and directed productions and programmes in theatres, schools, youth prison and communities around Aotearoa.  As a company, the Black Friars have been contracted to the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Social Development to design and administer theatre programmes that promote social justice.  They also deliver drama in education based workshops on request.

Areas of expertise

Pasifika theatre

Polynesian Performance

Pasifika education

Secondary education in Aotearoa

New Zealand secondary school English curriculum

New Zealand secondary school Drama curriculum

NCEA Drama

Selected publications and creative works (Research Outputs)

  • Johansson, M. (2017). What will it take to change the world?. Paper presented at Kerridge & Partners: Leadership Conference 2017, Auckland, New Zealand. 3 November - 3 November 2017.
  • The Black Friars, Johansson, M., Tofa, L., & Su'a D Southside rise, 29/6/2017. [Theatre], (100 minutes), , Mangere Arts Centre. Commissioning body: The Creative Thinking Project; Creative Communities
  • Mullen, M., & Johansson, M. (2017). More than words: Culturally and environmentally responsive literacies in The Arts. Set: Research Information for Teachers, 2017 (3), 38-44.
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Molly Mullen
  • Johansson, M. (2017). “I am the play”: The drama of authenticity in John Kneubuhl’s Mele Kanikau The University of Auckland. ResearchSpace@Auckland.
    URL: http://hdl.handle.net/2292/31949
  • Mullen, M., & Johansson, M. (2016). More than words: Eco-critical literacy in the arts. Paper presented at New Zealand Association for Research in Education Conference and AGM, Victoria University of Wellington. 20 November - 23 November 2016.
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Molly Mullen
  • Johansson, M. (2016). "Coz Tybalt shanked Romeo’s dox ”: Poly-nizing Shakespeare on the Southside. English in Aotearoa (88), 15-20.
  • Johansson, M. (2014). Polynesian poly-vocal performance power and pedagogy: Sup and the spoken word revolution. English in Aotearoa (82), 16-22.
    URL: http://hdl.handle.net/2292/23245
  • Johansson, M. (2014). Being brown: Pasifika theatre and culturally responsive pedagogy. Drama New Zealand: Conference Journal, 40 (1), 22-32. Christchurch, New Zealand.
    URL: http://hdl.handle.net/2292/25282

Contact details

Primary office location

Level 3, Room 304
New Zealand